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Robsart

Great promise overtaken by prairie phantoms

Curling rinkThe abandoned curling rink

For decades after, locals, including a young Archie Smiley, insisted Jack Dayley's restless spirit haunted his old shack, three kilometres south of Robsart. As for phantoms, Smiley says he and a group of friends thought they encountered one while telling ghost stories to girls near the cemetery in 1943.

"We were telling these girls these ghost stories when all of a sudden I saw something white in the cemetery," says Smiley. "I said to myself, 'Geez, if these girls see something white they will jump out of the car." The men took off with their lady friends and came back to the cemetery later that night to investigate further. "It was scary for us until we went back to see for ourselves," says Smiley. "When we returned we saw a girl in the cemetery standing over the grave of her sister."

With the exception of a few residences in Robsart, the cemetery, about a kilometre and a half west of town, is currently the most well-maintained institution left from Robsart's past. Robsart's explosive prosperous beginnings began its long decline in the late twenties. A grain elevator fire in 1929 was an ominous sign of things to come. The following year saw another blaze wipe out a large section of the business core.

The Depression years, with accompanying droughts, falling grain prices and poor crop yields, witnessed further business closures. Many merchants, staggered by crippling financial losses, packed and left for greener pastures.

The beleaguered community struggled on but never with the same early pioneer optimism. Locals and nearby farmers rallied in the eighties to renovate a new community hall but slowly, one by one, most remaining businesses and homes were boarded up. By the end of 2000, only half a dozen people were left in the town. Prairie phantoms had clearly taken over. "There's not much left," says Mona Murray, a resident since 1981. "They call it a ghost town now."

But every once in a while, Archie Smiley comes back to look around at the remains of the town he still calls home. During the nineties, current and former residents of the town submitted stories and reflections to a community book; in part to help keep the memories alive. Smiley offered a revised old poem called, "Ode to Robsart":

"Here's to Robsart, it's still here yet,
No store, not hotel, a well with a jet.......
The main street still stretching, not much in your way.
When you put it together, there is nothing more,
No hustle, no bustle, no rumble, no roar.
It's as dead as a doornail, it's old as the hills,
No fun, no excitement, no jolly old thrills.
But still we did love it, though far we may roam,
For Robsart is Robsart, and Robsart was home."